SEATTLE - Washington Congressman Doc Hastings is leading a group of 12 fellow Republicans in an effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species," said Hastings. "The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species) than to delist."
The Republicans said only 2% of the protected species have been recovered even though billions of dollars in tax payer money has been spent.
The group is calling for limits on lawsuits by environmentalists and more power for states to regulate protection for struggling species.
The ESA has long been criticized for leaving states and private landowners out of the mix when protecting listed species even though they bear the brunt of the costs.
But supporters, including Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, who was in her native Washington State today, said the Act has proved itself very effective for decades.
Jewell said, “It has had an enormous difference in raising awareness, looking at our forests in a different way."
So far some 30 species have successfully been delisted from the ESA. It is credted with reviving nose diving populations of raptors and other birds and just this week with helping save the Oregon Chum, the first fish to be delisted after reaching a sustainable population.
Jewell said it’s not perfect and it can be improved but the ESA has benefited wildlife in ways nobody expected.